A Clear Call

Isaiah 43:1.---' But now the thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed the, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mind.' Isaiah 45:4.---' For Jacob my servant's sake, in Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.' Ezek. 1:3.---` The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.'

Let us at once dismissed from our mind the thought that these personal dealings of God were a miraculous feature restricted to the ancient world. He has never ceased to deal directly with His creatures. In the everlasting freshness and beauty of Nature we see this. To assure ourselves of His presence and working it is not necessary for us to go back to the garden of Eden, to the rainbow of Noah, to the harvest field of Boaz, to the starry firmament of the Psalmist. The flowers bloom, the rainbow glows, the birds sing, the corn ripens, the stars are bright and strong as in the ancient years. We see God working before our very eyes, and the confession starts upon our lips, 'Lo! God is here.'

As men watch the appearance of the sunset, thoughts and feelings arise in their hearts that move their being in unnumbered ways. Youth is fired with high ideals, age consoled with peaceful hopes, saints as they pray see heaven opened, sinners feel conscience deeply stirred. Mourners are comforted, weary ones rested, artists inspired, lovers united, worldlings purified and softened as they gaze. In a short half-hour all is over, the mechanical process has come to an end, the gold has melted into gray. But countless souls, meanwhile, have been soothed, and solaced, and uplifted by that evening benediction from the far-off sky.

The Father of our spirits remains intimately nigh to humanity, leading, strengthening, protecting us as when it in distant ages He made himself known to prophets and apostles. He ever speaks out of heaven directly and authoritatively claiming our personal confidence, love, and obedience.

One great distinction between material things and living creatures is found in the individuality that belongs to the latter. We can think of all the water of the world as a unity; everywhere to streams, or more, will mingle and become one. We can think of all the rocks of the world as a single mass. But is impossible to imagine a summed mass of even the lowest forms of life. Still less can we think the term humanity in the same corporate way. To matter belongs the idea of identity, mass; to man that of aloofness, independence, individuality. In these texts will find examples of the Divine recognition of this individuality. The nationality of Israel is viewed apart from all other nationalities; the personality of Cyrus and Ezekiel are made outstanding. We are all more or less conscious of this isolation. We remain apart from all others, and we know it. In all the chief matters of life, we are alone; we dream alone; we suffer alone; We die alone. We are all islands, each in his hidden sphere of joy or woe; our hermit spirits dwell and roam apart. Souls or more solitary than stars. And yet we contrive to deaden the sense of individuality when we cannot destroy it. In effect we lose ourselves in the crowd. As in the doctrine of pantheism a vague impersonal element is substituted for the personality of Deity, so there is a panhumanism in which our individuality is lost in a vague sense of the infinity of numbers.

But there comes a time in every man's life when he awakens with a shock to the fact of his individuality, and to the claims of the higher life. From our earliest days as we have a general sense of spiritual relation an obligation, although it may be faint because obscured by the excitements, interest, and pleasures of the world. One day, however, the call is heard at that resolve's the nebulous feeling into a definite sense of immediate duty. 'I've called the by name.' Literally, 'I have called out thy name.' One by one we're called to a new life, one larger, deeper, purer, worthier. With a start we hear our name, we are differentiated from the crowd, we realized our relationship to the eternal world as never before. The solemn confession of the Psalmist becomes ours, 'Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.' There is no mistake the Divine voice calling us to Himself. Milton writes of "airy tongues that syllable men's names on sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses," but the voice that calls us to a godly life commands the soul and cannot be mistaken. Whether we respond to it or not, is one of the greatest facts in our history; we can never forget it, and we can never again be as if we had not heard it.

It is in the most varied circumstances that we become alive to the called of God. Very frequently the eyes of men are open to the unsatisfying character of earthly things whilst they have the most of them, and they are warned to look higher. Prosperity drops his mask and is known to be a phantom; his treasures are seen to be shadows, not substantial things.

In the weather for a vacation I have been very fortunate---fortunate in a companion, fortunate in our prospects. I was disposed to be pleased. I am a lover of Nature and an admirer of beauty. I can bear fatigue and welcome privation, and have seen some of the noblest views in the world. But in all this the recollection of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home desolation which must accompany me through life, have preyed upon the here; and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest nor the clouds have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled may to lose my own wretched identity in the majesty, and the power, and the glory, around, above, and beneath me.

'The word of the Lord' comes to others, as it came to Ezekiel, in far different circumstances. 'As I was among the captives the heavens were opened, and I saw of visions of God.' Exile, humiliation, and suffering brought him to understand the large part that heaven plays in the affairs of men, and that it is to God we must look in dark days for light and strength, for consolation and hope. Why is it that at these times our minds are thrown back on themselves, and being so thrown, have a forecast of another and a higher state? When Pasteur lost loved children he wrote: "My philosophy is of the heart and not of the mind, and I give myself up, for instance, to those feelings about eternity which naturally at the bedside of a cherished child drawing its last breath. At those supreme moments, there's something in the depths of our souls which tells us that the world may be more than a mere combination of phenomenon proper to a mechanical equilibrium, brought out of the chaos of the elements simply through the gradual action of the forces of matter." So the tragedies of life and death call us to solemn considerations which at other times we neglect; the heavens are opened, and men see visions of God.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha